WETUMPKA, Ala. (AP) – A surveillance system featuring more than 300 cameras has been installed at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama Department of Corrections officials and Gov. Robert Bentley announced Thursday.
The surveillance system is part of an effort to improve inmate safety at the prison, Department Commissioner Kim Thomas told local media outlets. The Legislature provided $1.4 million to add the cameras, and Montgomery Technology Systems was the vendor, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Kristi Gates.
The U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year issued a report saying Tutwiler was not suitable for housing female offenders since it offered them little privacy to shower or use the bathroom and had numerous blind spots that could make it possible for sexual activity to go undetected. Several prison guards have also been accused of sexual harassment and abuse.
Al.com reported that consultants from The Moss Group led a camera management training session at the prison on Thursday morning. Moss Group founder Andie Moss and consultant Jim Dennis told Al.com they’ve seen similar problems at other corrections facilities in the U.S, and while a surveillance system isn’t a foolproof means of addressing inmate safety they still expect it to help.
“I’ve been in other systems with a lot of attention on them,” Moss told Al.com. “While it’s painful to go through this process with so much attention put on one institution, it gives you the opportunity to really come up as a leader,” he said.
Department officials understand that the impact of the system will depend on how it’s managed by corrections workers, Thomas said. Deputy Commissioner for Women’s Services Wendy Williams told Al.com that eight sergeant positions have been added at Tutwiler to oversee the surveillance system’s monitoring room.
Thomas said in a statement that he’s pleased the prison’s staff has undergone training on the surveillance system, and he hopes to use the technology as a template for other Alabama correctional facilities.
Bentley says the installation is proof of the state’s efforts to make the prison safer for inmates and staff.
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